Mentor: Christine Bourgeois
Man, Society and Nature: a Rousseauist Reading of Émile Zola - Émile Zola’s 20-book collection following the Rougon-Macquart family marks, for many experts, the birth of French Naturalism in the 19th century. The characteristics of this literary school, including its descriptive realism, its application of a pseudo-scientific method, and its consideration of political or philosophical hypotheses within the confines of a described reality, have been extensively related to Zola’s work. However there is little study to date of the social hypotheses that the author aims to prove through his writing. I shall argue that, through the Rougon-Macquart series, Zola presents the distinctly Rousseauist hypothesis of human devolution as the direct result of the expansion of societal structure and the related loss of connection to Nature. This study, which considers La Fortune des Rougon, La Terre, and La Débâcle, is meaningful because it considers a subset of this series underrepresented by modern literary analysis. It explores a relationship between the philosophies of Rousseau and Zola, which has not yet been discussed in any detail with respect to the Rougon-Macquart cycle.